“Tonight’s not just about Brady and Belichick. Tonight is about a city. A city that loves its sports – a Boston night.” – Mike Tirico
“He sacrificed more than anybody in this organization for 20 years. For 20 years he put it on the line. (These fans) love Tom Brady and so do I.” – Rodney Harrison
“I can only imagine what it would be like for me to go back to the Superdome and walk out of the visitors’ tunnel after my 15 years there.” – Drew Brees
“Tom Brady is going to have trouble holding it together tonight.” – Tony Dungy
“I know there’s a lot of build-up, but you know what? It’s the greatest quarterback of all-time and the greatest coach of all-time.” – Mike Tirico
STAMFORD, Conn. – October 3, 2021 – NBC Sports’ presentation of Week 4 of the 2021 NFL season began tonight from Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., with Football Night in America leading into coverage of Bucs-Patriots on Sunday Night Football on NBC and Peacock, as Tom Brady made his return to New England.
Mike Tirico hosted tonight’s special edition of FNIA on-site from Gillette Stadium and opened the program with the same walk Brady took from the visitor’s locker room out to the field.
He was joined on-site by Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Tony Dungy and Super Bowl XLV MVP Drew Brees, as well as two-time Super Bowl winner Rodney Harrison and co-host Jac Collinsworth.
Co-host Maria Taylor hosted coverage from Studio 1 in NBC Sports’ International Broadcast Center in Stamford, Conn., alongside former NFL quarterback Chris Simms. NFL Insider Mike Florio provided reports from his home studio and Steve Kornacki broke down Brady’s historic success after turning 40.
Pre-game coverage also included Harrison’s pre-game interview with Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and a segment with former Patriots WR and Super Bowl XXXIX MVP Deion Branch.
For the first time ever, Football Night in America and Sunday Night Football are streaming on Peacock Premium every week this season. Viewers can sign up here. Peacock Premium is included at no additional cost for Comcast’s eligible Xfinity X1 and Flex customers and Cox Contour customers.
Al Michaels (play-by-play), Cris Collinsworth (analyst), Michele Tafoya (sideline reporter) and Terry McAulay (rules analyst) are calling tonight’s game.
NBC Sports’ post-game show Peacock Sunday Night Football Final streams tonight exclusively on Peacock following Sunday Night Football.
Following are highlights from tonight’s edition of Football Night in America on NBC and Peacock:
ON BRADY’S RETURN AND BUCS-PATRIOTS
Tirico’s monologue walking from the visitors’ locker room through the tunnel to the field to open the show: “Tonight has been billed Brady vs. Belichick. The greatest quarterback of all-time and the greatest coach of all-time…tonight’s not just about Brady and Belichick. Tonight is about a city. A city that loves its sports – a Boston night. Think about the great sports legends like Ted Williams, Bill Russell, Bobby Orr…that are on the Mount Rushmore with Tom Brady. But none of those greats ever played a road game in Boston. Tonight, these fans will come – probably give Brady one of the greatest ovations of all-time, but then root for their Patriots to win…there will be a reception like you’ve never seen. Looking at the crowd, there are more ‘12’ jerseys – no visiting player has probably had his jersey worn more in a stadium on the road than tonight…it’s a night filled with emotion, passion, and memories.”
Dungy on emotions of Brady’s return: “In 2002, I went back to Tampa after being fired by the Buccaneers. I thought I was going to hold it all together, I was going to be fine. All week I was telling myself it was just another game. When we got introduced and that crowd erupted for me, I almost lost it, and Tom Brady is going to have trouble holding it together tonight.”
Brees on emotions of Brady’s return: “I can only imagine what it would be like for me to go back to the Superdome and walk out of the visitors’ tunnel after my 15 years there. I do know what it was like to go back to San Diego. It was 10 years later, I thought I had mentally prepared myself, but I’m shedding tears as I’m giving my pre-game speech to the team. Those emotions are real and they’re hard to hold back.”
Harrison on Brady: “Tom is the perfect teammate. He always worked extremely hard, he always came prepared, and most importantly, he always put the team first. What I love is that these fans finally get the chance to see Tom’s personality through social media and all of the commercials that he’s doing. That’s why we fell in love with Tom, because of his personality. He sacrificed more than anybody in this organization for 20 years. For 20 years he put it on the line. (These fans) love Tom Brady and so do I.”
Brees on Brady potentially breaking his all-time NFL passing yards record tonight: “We’ve had a great relationship. Highly competitive for the first 15-17 years of it when we were playing against each other, but we’ve had some great moments. Our relationship has become so much about gratitude and appreciation…especially the last three years, I went back and looked at all of our text messages during that time. He was there to congratulate me with all of the big records…toward the end there was just so much appreciation and gratitude, parallels with our football journeys together.”
Belichick to Harrison on preparation for tonight’s game and potential distraction of Brady’s return: “It really wasn’t that bad. We just focused on Tampa. They had a lot to get ready for but that’s really where our mind was all week.”
Belichick to Harrison on slowing down the Bucs: “This is a ‘do your job’ game. Everyone is going to have to hold up their end.”
Tirico: “See, there is a former Belichick player here tonight that can make him smile. It’s Rodney Harrison!”
Dungy on Belichick’s approach against great quarterbacks: “When he has played against great quarterbacks, he gets very aggressive on offense. Go for it on fourth down, trick plays, onside kicks…whatever it takes to keep the ball away from Tom Brady.”
Harrison on game plan to face Brady: “We know that Coach Belichick is going to come out with a variety of coverages. I think he should start with man-to-man to challenge that quick passing game, but he also understands that in order to get to Tom Brady you have to put pressure directly in his face…in order to affect Tom, you have to get to him physically.”
Harrison on facing Brady in practice: “He always would try to steal our calls or hand signals…Tom is just the ultimate competitor.”
Tirico on the build-up of “The Return”: “I know there’s a lot of build-up, but you know what? It’s the greatest quarterback of all-time and the greatest coach of all-time. They did it together. And maybe for one last time, they share a football field. That makes tonight something special.”
Simms: “They have been dominant this year. The defensive game plans week in and week out have really stymied offenses. I don’t think we’ve even seen this offense hit on all cylinders this year. For me, the Bills are the most dangerous team in the AFC.”
Simms: “This is the most balanced offense in football with the way they run the ball.”
Dungy: “Dak Prescott is playing with such confidence and (defensive coordinator) Dan Quinn has changed the mentality of that defense.”
Simms: “The offense is where it starts for the Kansas City Chiefs. They need to put pressure on the other team’s defense all the time. That’s where all their money is, all of their assets and playmakers…their defense is struggling right now so the offense is going to have to hold it down.”
Brees: “The defense is giving up 31 points per game. We know the offense can score but that defense is going to have to stop somebody.”
Simms on QB Lamar Jackson: “He was the star of the show. The Ravens offense got off to a slow start and it was Lamar’s ability to throw from the pocket that won the game for them.”
Simms: “They’re here to stay. There are just too many talented football players on both sides of the ball. (Kyler Murray) was on fire today. He played as well as I can ever remember him playing.”
–FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA–